was the fourth Skylark launched, and the first British rocket to reach
space! As the previous flights had gone relatively well, this time the
first university experiments were included. These were a full-scale test
of the University College London 'grenade' experiment, the Imperial
College 'window' (chaff) experiment and the University of Birmingham
Preparation: As with SL03, the first three attempts to launch SL04
had to be abandoned because of technical problems. However on Wednesday
13th November all went well, the countdown was successful, and launch took
place at 21:22 in the evening local time. This was a moonless night, so
the grenade flashes could be seen.
Flight: After a flight
time of 110 seconds, SL04 crossed the nominal 100 km (62 mile) border into
space. Here it continued to climb for another minute or so through the
region where the sporadic E-layer of the ionosphere occurs, reaching an
apogee of 420,000 feet (128 km / 79 miles). Just over a minute later,
re-entry occurred, Skylark 04 having spent two and a half minutes in
Recovery: Impact was 107
miles (172 km) downrange, the impact point located, and parts recovered.
SL04's apogee of 128 km was some 70%
greater than that estimated for SL03, and it became the first British
rocket to cross the nominal 100 km boundary and reach space, a tribute to
the British who designed and made it, and the Australians who launched it.
The university scientists and the Royal Society must have been delighted
to see their first experiments carried into space. "Skylark SL04 marked
the real beginning of the British high altitude rocket programme".